An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (Oath or Affirmation of Citizenship)

This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in May 2004.

This bill was previously introduced in the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session.


John Bryden  Conservative

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)


Not active, as of Oct. 2, 2002
(This bill did not become law.)


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

December 2nd, 2002 / 11:50 a.m.
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John Cannis Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will start by thanking my colleague from Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, first, for the work he has put behind this private member's initiative, but more so for the thought behind the initiative.

In his proposal he has put forward two different versions, which pleases me very much personally and I know a lot of Canadians. The one version, where he makes reference to God, makes me very happy. In the other version, appreciating the diversity of our country, he does not make reference to God.

Without going into the historical aspect of it, because most members have covered that, and for the purpose of saving time, I too find great pleasure when I attend citizenship courts and see the many different people willingly coming forward and wanting to become part of the country, not just by saying that they want to live here but by taking oaths and becoming citizens of Canada and, I stress, of Canada.

I have also heard, as many members indicated today, including the member moving the bill, why they are not pledging allegiance to Canada, as we do in reverse. I too bring that message from citizenship courts that I attend in the greater Toronto area.

As most members here are very experienced parliamentarians, they know that in today's changing and trying times no legislation ever written is perfect. It is written with good intent and good thought and along the way, as time and circumstances change, we make amendments.

I remember growing up as a young boy when we sang God Save the Queen every day at school. Even today, according to the circumstances, I get goose bumps when I sing that song. I look forward to those opportunities. At the Remembrance Day services, for example, in Scarborough it is part of our activity, and I am very pleased for that.

We also did not have a flag some years back and today we have the maple leaf. We made those changes. God knows, maybe 10 or 20 years down the road we will possibly make some other changes according to how our country changes.

I came with a thought to talk to Bill C-203 but as the debate unfolded I guess I was provoked a little by the Bloc Quebecois member who referred to the European Union. Let us look at the European Union. When the president of the European commission, Mr. Prodi, first took office he said that within the confederation called the European Union the Italians would never stop being Italian, the Portuguese would never stop being Portuguese, the French would never stop being French and the Greeks would never stop being Greeks. It does not take their identities away because they fall under the European Union.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

December 2nd, 2002 / 11:35 a.m.
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Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on Bill C-203, and I too want to thank the member for Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot for his contribution to the House with respect to citizenship.

It is a timely private member's initiative given the fact that after a good nine years Parliament is finally discussing seriously legislation pertaining to citizenship. As we speak, Bill C-18 is being pursued at the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration with great purpose and thoughtfulness.

I appreciate the suggestion by the member for renewing our oath of citizenship to make it more meaningful in what it means to be a Canadian and the values of Canadian citizenship. I appreciate the suggestions that our oath should somehow capture those fundamental values of being a Canadian, including equality of opportunity, freedom of speech, democracy, basic human rights and the rule of law. Those are fundamental values for Canadian citizenship and I respect his commitment to include those words in the oath. However I am not so sure that it is an initiative that I can support at this time. I will listen very carefully to the debate, consider the proposition and include the reflections of members in our deliberations on Bill C-18.

I speak today not giving enthusiastic support to this initiative simply because there are so many aspects to citizenship that we have to deal with as a Parliament that are not captured in the issue of the words around the oath.

We as a Parliament have to deal with a fundamental neglect in this area with respect to the way in which the Government of Canada has enveloped the notion of citizenship and what it has done to encourage good citizenship. I would suggest that on a number of fronts the government has done the antithesis of what is required to encourage civic participation and to ensure that both the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship are taken into account.

There is absolutely no question that Canadian citizenship is the highest right we, as a democratic nation, can confer upon those living within our borders. These rights and responsibilities define the egalitarian and democratic values that we all hold, and the member reflects those values in his private member's bill.

We all agree that no one has legal or political rights extending beyond citizenship and we affirm many times a citizen's right to vote and run for office are fundamental democratic rights. We have to ask today the following questions.

First, what have we as a nation done to redress serious grievances in terms of our first nations? That point was made previously. On that front our record is deplorable. We have not conferred upon our aboriginal citizens, first nations, Metis and Inuit communities the rights of citizenship. We have denied consistently the ability of those original peoples of Canada to enjoy the full rights of citizenship, particularly those rights enunciated in this motion about equality of opportunity, freedom of speech, democracy, basic human rights and the rule of law.

I would suggest that, before we get down to fiddling with the words and changing the oath of citizenship, we look at the basics.

First, I would recommend that as a Parliament we finally address the fundamental issue of what it means to be a Canadian and what is the value of citizenship.

Second, I think we have many historical grievances that have yet to be addressed by the Government of Canada pertaining directly to citizenship. For example, we have yet to deal, as a Parliament and as a nation, with correcting the injustices that occurred as the result of the Chinese immigrant head tax and the Chinese exclusion act. That is issue is still before Canada and before Parliament.

I suggest also that as a Parliament we have not dealt with the matter of redress for Ukrainian people who were interned during World War I. Valiant efforts have been made to have this matter addressed by Parliament but to date the Government of Canada has chosen not to, so with respect to our multicultural mosaic there are many shortcomings that have to be addressed if we are truly serious about citizenship.

My third point has to do with the fact that as we speak, as we try to deal with the citizenship oath, the government is not prepared to stand up strongly and firmly against the United States, which has chosen to treat many of our citizens as second class. As we confront the issues of citizenship today, we must confront the matters of racial profiling and the fact that the United States of America has made subjective and unilateral decisions pertaining to which Canadian citizens are above suspicion and which shall be fingerprinted, interviewed and questioned even though they are citizens.

Relating to that, I suggest that it is very difficult to deal with a citizenship oath when the Government of Canada is proceeding with policies that run contrary to the notion of citizenship. I think, for example, of the safe third country being negotiated outside Parliament. Even though the immigration committee has had a chance to give some reflections on the regulations pertaining to this deal, the fact of the matter is that the minister and the government are proceeding full bore ahead without consulting Parliament and without considering what this means in terms of our fundamental views about citizenship and our treatment of refugees contrary to our traditions of compassion and a humanitarian approach.

I also think about some of the changes made in the new Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which make our whole notion of citizenship questionable. The fact that individuals can be denied citizenship without due process certainly runs counter to everything the member is suggesting in Bill C-203. The rule of law seems to have gone out the window on many fronts when it comes to citizenship.

My fourth point is that when it comes to creating a sense of civic participation and the need for citizens to be involved in our political life, in the electoral process and in all aspects of society in this country, it is very hard to persuade and encourage them to take that process seriously when the government negates decisions made by this Parliament that have been agreed to sometimes on a unanimous basis. When the government makes promises and breaks them it fails to live up to the expectations of the electorate. It is very hard to persuade people to be involved in civic politics and take citizenship seriously when their own government seems to break faith each and every time. We can imagine what new Canadians must think when they hear about a Parliament that passes a motion on a unanimous basis to ensure that we treat people with disabilities with respect and that they have the services they need, and the government of the day turns around and says it has to think it through more carefully.

If one wants to practise good citizenship, one has to be a good example. We must be able to always say that not only is citizenship important out there in terms of classes leading up to an individual actually becoming a citizen, but it must be something that we live and breathe each and every day. It clearly means that we as the Parliament of Canada must ensure that the government practises what it preaches and that we translate that into the statutes, programs and regulations of the land. This comes down to the fundamental concept of saying what one means, doing what one says and being consistent at all times.

The member makes a good contribution in Bill C-203, but I urge him to go back to his government and address all of these issues that deny citizenship and do not allow this country to live up to its high standards with respect to welcoming newcomers, redressing past grievances and leading by example.

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

December 2nd, 2002 / 11:15 a.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Lynne Yelich Canadian Alliance Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to contribute to the debate on Bill C-203, an act to amend the Citizenship Act regarding the oath or affirmation of citizenship. Under this bill, sponsored by the hon. member for Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, it is proposed the oath of citizenship be amended to reflect what it means to be a citizen of Canada.

The current oath has been in place for decades and reflects the sentiments of the time during which it was crafted. The current oath states:

I swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, according to law and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada and fulfill my duties as a Canadian citizen.

The government recently introduced Bill C-18, an act respecting Canadian citizenship which, if passed, is intended to modernize and update the old Citizenship Act which was enacted in 1977. Part of Bill C-18 includes a change to the oath new Canadians are expected to take at their citizenship ceremony. Under Bill C-18 the new citizenship oath would be:

From this day forward, I pledge my loyalty and allegiance to Canada and Her Majesty Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada. I promise to respect our country's rights and freedoms, to uphold our democratic values, to faithfully observe our laws and fulfill my duties and obligations as a Canadian citizen.

It is imperative that we recognize the importance of the oath and what it means to the thousands of new Canadians who utter it each year as they begin their lives as citizens of Canada.

This is explicitly addressed in Bill C-18, where it is specified that, generally, an oath of citizenship is to be made with solemnity and dignity during the course of a formal citizenship ceremony. At this ceremony, which is viewed as a milestone in the lives of new citizens, we are reminded that all citizens of Canada should demonstrate mutual respect and understanding, so that each citizen can contribute to the best of his or her ability in Canadian society.

While the proposed version of the oath under Bill C-18 more clearly defines some of the values Canadians hold dear, there is still room for improvement. Under Bill C-203 the oath of citizenship would be as follows:

In pledging allegiance to Canada, I take my place among Canadians, a people united by God whose sacred trust is to uphold these five principles: equality of opportunity, freedom of speech, democracy, basic human rights, and the rule of law.

For those who wish to swear their allegiance in accordance with religious convictions, the oath is changed from “a people united by their solemn trust” to “a people united by God”.

At the outset I should note that Bill C-203, which would otherwise be votable, is no longer votable due to the fact that the oath is being addressed in government Bill C-18. Therefore, the main purpose of the debate today is to speak to the proposed revisions to our oath of citizenship and to lay the groundwork for amendments to Bill C-18 which could be voted on.

I am concerned that the oath proposed under Bill C-203 is not framed in the active tense in terms of any formalized pledge. I believe that either form of pledge under Bill C-203 would be improved by the term “in pledging” being replaced with “I pledge”. A person in short transition to Canadian citizenship is thereby required to make the following statement, explicitly and without reservation: “I pledge allegiance to Canada”.

In these uncertain times, it is important that the allegiance of any Canadian citizen is to Canada. Canada has it own social, cultural and historical identity. Why not embrace moves to modernize citizenship by crafting a uniquely Canadian oath that reflects not only the values of our nation, but also the responsibilities that go along with citizenship in such a country?

In proposing a new oath under Bill C-18, some of the emphasis on the monarchy has been removed. The pledge of allegiance is to the Queen alone, rather than also to her heirs and successors.

Under Bill C-203, the proposed oath contains no reference to the monarchy at all. Rather, new citizens would be asked to unite with other Canadians in upholding and promoting the fundamental principles by which we live and govern ourselves.

Canada attracts hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world each year. These are people who choose to make Canada their home. Those who become citizens do so by choosing to embrace those principles that are the essence of Canada. It does not seem unreasonable to have those principles enunciated explicitly in the oath of citizenship.

My primary reservation concerning the proposed oath in Bill C-203 is that it does not require that a new citizen clearly acknowledge that there are responsibilities as well as rights and values associated with citizenship. Let there be no mistake. Let there be no mistake, for those who choose to settle in Canada, Canadian citizenship is a privilege. It allows freedom, democracy, security, prosperity and education, among so many other opportunities.

In addition, Canadian citizenship means more than a technical designation of nationality. It is also about responsibility. Each and every citizen, whether new to Canada or born here, has a duty to conduct himself or herself in a manner consistent with Canadian values and the concepts outlined in the proposed oath we are debating today.

The hon. member for Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot has acknowledged both in committee and in debate in the House that his purpose in framing the oath in Bill C-203 is to specifically reference the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He stated earlier in debate that the five principles in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms are the law above the laws of Parliament and, indeed, they are in our constitution now. He stated that he tried to capture in the five principles of the charter the ultimate law that governs being Canadian.

I will leave it to others to debate the specific charter references in the proposed oath of citizenship. There are many who still have reservations concerning the establishment and interpretation of our charter. However, irrespective of one's view of the charter, the oath proposed in Bill C-203 references well established and shared values among Canadians which may be respected in their included context here.

The hon. member stated in debate that he believes the responsibilities of being a Canadian citizen are encompassed by the term “solemn trust to uphold these five principles” in his proposed oath. It is important to spell out those responsibilities rather than let them be implied. If Bill C-203 were votable, I would be proposing that the oath be reworded to include something like the following statements.

I pledge allegiance to Canada and Her Majesty the Queen as I take my place among Canadians, a people united by five principles: equality of opportunity, freedom of speech, democracy, basic human rights and the rule of law. I solemnly promise to respect these rights and freedoms and to uphold Canada's democratic values as I fulfill my duties and obligations as a Canadian citizen.

I have blended the proposed oaths in Bill C-203 and Bill C-18 in the interests of incorporating the best elements of each suggestion.

I would further note that in Saskatchewan the citizenship ceremony officials take great pride in the ceremonies held to welcome new citizens. I suggest that, with their experience and expertise on the subject, such officiants may be able to contribute to the discussion of what should be included in a meaningful citizenship oath.

I would like to conclude my remarks by discussing the nature and responsibilities of citizenship as seen through the eyes of others. I recently found passages from an old banking newsletter published in 1966 that summarized nicely the spirit of citizenship in Canada. These passages are as relevant today as when first published nearly 40 years ago. I will paraphrase the thoughts as follows.

Good citizenship can be simple if Canadians will think of it as not something merely legal or intellectual, but something transcending law and reason, something deeply felt, deeply believed, dominant even in our dreams. Our citizenship stirs us to enjoy and contribute to the best sort of society yet offered to people who are advancing together in search of equality of life. This is time to read the record and find our citizenship 10 times more meaningful than it has ever been before. Having made ourselves sovereign as a nation, we must now behave intelligently as citizens. A citizen is not only an individual but a member of a family--

Citizenship ActPrivate Members' Business

December 2nd, 2002 / 11 a.m.
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John Bryden Liberal Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

moved that Bill C-203, an act to amend the Citizenship Act (Oath or Affirmation of Citizenship), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to speak to this private member's bill that would, at long last I would hope, change the Canadian oath of citizenship to better reflect who Canadians are. It would change the wording of the oath to reflect the principles of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I would suggest that, more than anything else, what defines Canadians is: our respect for the rule of law, freedom of expression, equality of opportunity, democracy and basic human rights.

I would like to begin, however, by reviewing, if I may, the current oath of allegiance. When new Canadians come to this country seeking citizenship they are required to say the following words. They are:

I swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, according to law and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada and fulfill my duties as a Canadian citizen.

Everyone will be interested to know that the New Zealand oath of citizenship states as follows:

I... swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of New Zealand, Her heirs and successors according to the law, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of New Zealand and fulfil my duties as a New Zealand citizen. So help me God.

Members will note that there is a direct similarity between the two oaths. Indeed, they are almost exactly the same. I should say that only New Zealand and Canada have this oath which basically is derived from the British colonial period of the 18th century. The British at that time had many colonies across the world. Britain was an empire very much like the United States in the sense that it was a mercantile empire that was acquiring colonies around the world in order to develop a vast commercial enterprise, a vast world commerce.

In the middle of the 18th century, as we know, Britain went to war with New France. France at that time controlled all of what we know as Quebec and much of what we know as Nova Scotia. When Britain went to war, it was the umpteenth war. Britain had been at war with France in a struggle for the continent for many years. A terrible tragedy occurred with the Acadians at that particular time. Because the power was in Quebec and the British conquered Acadia--Nova Scotia--taking some of the forts there and establishing a presence, the British government authorities required the Acadians, who were all French speaking, just as they were in Quebec, as Quebec had been a colony of France, to take an oath of allegiance to the king. That oath of allegiance was essentially the same oath that I just recited. When the Acadians were reluctant to take that oath, one of the great tragedies of Canadian history occurred, and that was what is known as the Acadian expulsion, which actually occurred on a Sunday. The British fleet happened to be in port and it seized all the Acadian males at their churches attending mass, put them on board ship and dispersed them down the entire coastline of the United States, as well as to Louisiana. It took many years for a few of them to return. It was a terrible tragedy and, of course, it changed the complexion of Nova Scotia. I am proud to say that we still have an Acadian presence but had the British not done that, Nova Scotia today would probably be a French speaking province, very much like Quebec and much of New Brunswick.

It was that oath of allegiance that I recited earlier that was used for the dispersal of the Acadians because the Acadians could not bear to swear allegiance to the king.

What one must understand is that the British crown in those days did not have an oath of allegiance in England. In fact it did not have an oath of allegiance, of citizenship or of naturalization until the 1980s. In England the people were all British subjects but for the colonies they had to devise this oath of allegiance to the king. People had to pledge fealty to the king as a way of guaranteeing that the people who were not British subjects, who were perhaps French speaking or perhaps living in the colonies in the Caribbean or in Australia, for example, who were all convicts, would bow to the power of the crown. It ordered them to take an oath of allegiance, which is the oath we have today.

When new Canadians come to this country and swear that oath many people have difficulty with it because some of them come from Commonwealth countries where, in their own colonial history, pledging allegiance to the Crown meant slavery. Therefore it is perhaps an oath that needs to be changed.

In the citizenship bill that is now before the House, Bill C-18, the government has revised the oath. The government did this without any consultation with Parliament. It was done following hearings by the citizenship and immigration committee in 1994-95, which universally said that Canada needed an oath that reflected Canadian values. What we have now before the House is this oath which states:

From this day forward, I pledge my loyalty and allegiance to Canada and Her Majesty Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada. I promise to respect our country's rights and freedoms, to uphold our democratic values, to faithfully observe our laws and fulfil my duties and obligations as a Canadian citizen.

I suggest that this new oath is not much of an improvement over the oath that is currently being used by people taking out Canadian citizenship. There are a number of things about this. Most of it is taken from the Australian oath of citizenship, which revised its oath in 1993, and it is an echo of the oath I just read.

The oath has some very obvious flaws in it. There is the redundancy of, “I pledge my loyalty and allegiance”. These are the same things. I think, more important, it is not enough simply to ask the people who are taking out Canadian citizenship to faithfully observe our laws and fulfill their duties as citizens of Canada.

I observe for members that world history is replete with examples where governments change laws so that they do not reflect basic human rights, do not respect the rule of law and deprive people of freedom of speech and equality of opportunity.

I refer members to the numerous European examples where citizens were obligated to obey laws that were unjust. The classic example of course is what happened in the interwar years with Germany and Italy, where people were forced to obey laws that were brought in by totalitarian governments. It is not enough to ask people to obey the laws of the land. We must tell them what the laws are that they must obey, that really do define who they are, and define the rights and freedoms of the people who are joining.

I would like to propose to the House another version of the oath. This is the version of an oath I crafted after consultation with many Canadians and as a result of many hours interviewing new Canadians on the citizenship and immigration committee. The oath I would propose states:

In pledging allegiance to Canada, I take my place among Canadians, a people united by their solemn trust to uphold these five principles: equality of opportunity, freedom of speech, democracy, basic human rights and the rule of law.

I would suggest that is the ultimate definition of who we are as Canadians and how we are seen as Canadians around the world. People do not see us as British. They do not see us as people who perhaps have come from Greece. They do not see us as anglophones or aboriginals. They see us as a people who are renowned for upholding those five principles.

We had a charter of rights when there was no charter of rights in the United Kingdom. There was no charter of rights in Great Britain. We invented it. We brought it forward and it defines us as Canadians. I also have another version that properly reflects the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, it reads:

In pledging allegiance to Canada, I take my place among Canadians, a people united by God, whose sacred trust is to uphold these five principles: equality of opportunity, freedom of speech, democracy, basic human rights and the rule of law.

Now the reason that we have to have a version that makes reference to God is because it is in the charter, it is in O Canada, but also because there are those who have strong religious beliefs and do not feel that they can make a real pledge unless there is a reference to God.

On the other hand, we have many people coming from other lands who have come from places where there has been oppression in the name of religion and they want a version in which they do not have to make reference to God. Therefore, I offer in Bill C-203 the two choices.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, you will note that in the version that I present to you, there is no reference to the Queen. I would suggest that is hardly novel. In 1993 Australia revised its oath of citizenship which was very much like our current oath and the oath of New Zealand. Australia changed it. The Australian oath of citizenship is quite nice, it says:

As an Australian citizen, I affirm my loyalty to Australia and its people, whose democratic beliefs I share,whose rights and liberties I respect, and whose laws I uphold and obey.

I think that is very nice and actually is an attempt at poetry. And when the Australians brought if forward--and it is important to remember that Australia, like Canada, is a parliamentary monarchy--they had an extensive debate about whether they should retain the monarchy. Australians said overwhelmingly that they wanted to retain the monarchy as the head of state just as we have here.

However, in 1993 Australians appreciated that they needed an oath of citizenship that reflected Australian values. It is interesting when Australian Senator Nick Bolkus spoke at that time to the Australian citizenship pledge. He said:

Citizenship proclaims and defines our Australian identity and it is appropriate that new citizens pledge loyalty first and foremost to Australia and its people. Some Australian residents have been reluctant to apply for citizenship because they found it difficult to relate to the current Oath of Allegiance.

We heard that repeatedly during our citizenship and immigration committee hearings in 1994-95. We heard that from people who came from all over the world to Canada. Approximately 160,000 people a year pledge allegiance to Canada. People say, “Why is it the Queen? Why is it not Canada and Canadian values?”

The Australians, almost 10 years in advance of us, changed the oath to reflect Australian values. I think Canada is a greater country. Senator Bolkus also said:

As a truly multicultural society, it is proper that the Pledge of commitment be one which will be equally meaningful to all people.

I suggest that the current oath and the oath that has been proposed by the government in Bill C-18 is not meaningful to all people. We need to change it to an oath that when people say it they know that they are becoming Canadian and they are sharing our values.

Citizenship of Canada ActGovernment Orders

November 7th, 2002 / 12:20 p.m.
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Andrew Telegdi Liberal Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to debate the new citizenship act. I will try to put this in context of what it means to Canada.

We are a nation of immigrants who come from all over the world. We are a nation that in many ways represents the best in the world, having built a tolerant society that in many cases is the envy of the world.

The member who just spoke, the critic for the Progressive Conservative Party, myself as well as another 50 members of the House were not born in Canada. We came from elsewhere. We were debating recently in the House that the practice of the Americans trying to institute racial profiling on Canadians born in certain countries who were trying to gain entry into the United States was a bad thing and was something that had to be corrected. There are members of Parliament who originally came from some of those countries but who are Canadian citizens. Under those procedures they would be subjected to being registered and having their fingerprints taken. That is not right and the American government has recognized that it is not right.

I understand that in the context of 9/11 we do look at the world in a different fashion but practices such as racial profiling do not work. They require a great deal of resources and they are not effective. In order to be successful in combating things like terrorism, the efforts have to be focused and there cannot be scarce resources.

I have been in Canada since 1957 after fleeing a revolution in Hungary. In some sense 9/11 made me as a new Canadian, appreciate how hysteria can overtake us and lead us into making bad decisions.

As much as Canada should be a beacon to the world, and in many cases it is, it is imperative that we understand our history. It is imperative that we understand why on April 17, 1982, over 20 years ago, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was enacted to enshrine basic rights and guarantees to the citizenry of the country.

In the charter, section 7 on legal rights states:

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.

I underline fundamental justice and security of the person. I say that because when we talk about the security of the person there are few things that would be as important to a person like myself, who is a citizen by choice or the six million other Canadians who are also citizens by choice, than the right to our citizenship and not to be deprived of it, except in the due process of law.

I will touch briefly on the history so we will understand why we need the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. There are cases before our courts right now where members of the Chinese community want compensation for the head tax. The head tax represents one of the darkest periods in our immigration history. At that time someone who came from China would have to pay a humongous amount of money, something like $5,000 at the turn of the century, which would be worth half a million dollars or more today, for the right to come into this country. The Asian exclusion act said that we did not want people coming to this country from Asia.

We have Project Roll Call going on right now that the critic on citizenship and immigration has spearheaded and spoken about. He has a private member's bill. Project Roll Call kicked off this week. It talks about Ukrainians. There are approximately one million Canadians of Ukrainian origin in Canada, or their descendants, who are living in this country. These people are looking for redress to a basic wrong where they were treated as less than human. They were classified as enemy aliens during the first world war; 5,000 were interned and another 80,000 were forced to register as enemy aliens.

We can go to other people who were Canadians living in Canada and who were forced to register as enemy aliens. We have members in the House from Italian backgrounds who have relatives who were forced to register as enemy aliens.

We had a law in this land that treated Canadians who fought in the first world war with great disrespect. We have had veterans of the first world war who were immigrants. Around 20% of the Canadian Forces who fought in the first world war were immigrants.

On May 28 we honoured the unknown soldiers by unveiling the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The person lying there could very well be one of those 20%. The practice we had in the country at that time was that if one was injured fighting overseas for Canada, then came back to this country and required relief and hospitalization, one could be deported. Surely we all recognize that this history has to be addressed.

During the second world war we had racist policies. The SS St. Louis , a ship full of Jews, travelled from Cuba to South America and past the coast of the United States and Canada. They were seeking refuge for almost 1,000 Jews who were fleeing wartorn Europe and persecution in Germany. What did we do? We turned them all down: the Americans, Cubans, South Americans and Canadians. We forced that ship to go back to Europe where many of those Jews perished in the gas chambers.

I bring that up because we also had a policy of “none is too many” for the Jews at the turn of the second world war. It was not until 1975 that we said it was not a consideration whether one was a person of colour trying to come into this country and we eliminated racial discrimination.

I say all those things because we are a nation of immigrants coming from all sorts of groups that have been discriminated against in their time. We have the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which was enacted by Pierre Elliot Trudeau and signed by the Queen on April 17, 1982. I cannot stress enough the importance of that.

With regard to the groups that have been looking for redress, we gave redress to Canadians of Japanese ancestry because of some of the horrible things that happened to them during the second world war. Not only were they subjected to the Asian exclusion act, but during the war they were interned and their properties were seized. They were dispersed to camps throughout Canada. What is so incredibly unforgivable is that after the war, 4,000 Canadians, many of them of Japanese ancestry and many of them born in Canada, were forcefully repatriated to Japan, a country that was devastated with Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a country that was obliterated.

It is imperative that we understand the fundamental underlying reasons why we have the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is in a way our day of atonement. The Ukrainian community and some Chinese communities are seeking redress right now for past wrongs. I can name all sorts of other groups that will also be seeking redress. I think to a large extent we have done that by enacting the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I would also suggest that we have a day of atonement, if for no other reason than for Canadians to understand the history of how we got to where we are. One only has to look at what happened to the Acadians.

It is imperative that we recognize the fundamental importance of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. If we want to truly be a country that is a beacon of hope to the rest of the world as to how society should operate, we must ensure that fundamental rights are not violated.

As I mentioned, I came to Canada in 1957 as a refugee. My citizenship is important to me. I was greatly honoured by my constituents when they elected me for the first time to this House in 1993. I was honoured by the Prime Minister when he asked me to become Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration in 1998.

Since I was not born in this country, notwithstanding the fact that I have been here since 1957, under Bill C-16, I and six million other Canadians, who like myself are citizens by choice, did not have the right to protection under the charter. When the government refused to give individuals those rights, I voted against the legislation and resigned as parliamentary secretary. I have been fighting the unfairness of that bill ever since.

I can tell the House that there are many more people enlightened about the Citizenship Act and what the revocation process is. I am pleased to see that in section 16 the government recognized the principle over which I resigned, which was basically that if one's citizenship were revoked, one should have the right of due process before the courts. One should have the right to appeal something as important as revocation of citizenship. One should have the right to go to the Supreme Court. One also should not be in the position where a political body like cabinet has the right to revoke an individual's citizenship. When I look back at the past injustices in this country, they were done by governor in council, by politicians.

With the institutions that we have built in our judiciary it is very important that we separate the mob that can exist because of 9/11. Everyone understands that because we lived through it. We should give that to the courts where the due process of law applies. Unless we do that, we do not really have a right to full citizenship. I am very pleased the minister put that section in.

I am not very pleased with clause 56. While we recognize that the law was bad and that it needed to be improved, clause 56 says that if a person is before the courts on citizenship revocation, the person will get the bad old process, not the new process. It seems to me that if we abolish capital punishment, we do not hang people on death row. That is a very fundamental principle. I look forward to working with the committee and the House to rectify that.

Clause 17 is totally new. It came in because of what happened on 9/11. We have to be very careful not to be stampeded into ruining what we accomplished in clause 16 by putting into clause 17 secret trials, no right to judicial review, a test of evidence, the rules of evidence do not apply and no appeal, not even a judicial review.

Clause 18 is also new. It would create a probationary citizen. For the first five years the judicial process would not apply. It would be done by the minister. The minister is good fellow and I like him, but the fact is that we all know it is not the minister who will make those decisions, it will be a faceless bureaucrat who does not have to answer for his or her decision. I think we can work with that, recognizing that 9/11 did happen to make it better.

One of the discomforts I have with the whole citizenship act is that it only deals with naturalization. It does not deal with all those other Canadians out there. Citizenship should be great news and something we should celebrate. I think a lot of that is lacking.

While there was an improvement in the citizenship oath, because it really put Canada first and foremost before the Queen, I can only say that my colleague from Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, in a private member's bill, Bill C-203, proposed another citizenship oath. I do not agree with all his wording but he has a fundamental section in it. He talks about the five principles of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms: equality of opportunity, freedom of speech, democracy, basic human rights and the rule of the law.

I am pleased to be engaging in this debate and this process. I look forward to working with the committee, the minister and all my colleagues in the House collectively with our wisdom, in a non-partisan way, because citizenship is not something we should ever play politics with. I really learned to appreciate my colleagues from the other side, and of course some on my side, when I was going through this battle over two years ago. I know that if we work together in a non-partisan way we will come up with a bill that will answer the issues I have raised. As Canadians, all 31 million of us, can celebrate the joy of being Canadian citizens.

Citizenship ActRoutine Proceedings

October 2nd, 2002 / 3:10 p.m.
See context


John Bryden Liberal Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-203, an act to amend the Citizenship Act (Oath or Affirmation of Citizenship).

Mr. Speaker, this bill, a new bill, would amend the act of citizenship to better define the responsibilities of Canadian citizenship. It would do that by changing the current text of the oath of citizenship to better reflect the principles that are laid out in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

I cannot think of another time in Canadian history when it is so important, given what is happening elsewhere in the world, for Canadians to be reminded of what we stand for as Canadians and to tell the world thusly what we stand for as Canadians, and that we uphold the basic rights of people around the world.

Therefore the basic text of the oath that I am proposing would be: “In pledging allegiance to Canada, I take my place among Canadians, a people united by God, whose sacred trust is to uphold these five principles: the equality of opportunity, freedom of speech, democracy, basic human rights and the rule of law”.

I thank the member for Saint-Lambert for seconding me on this bill.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)